THE SHOW "Damages"

WHEN | WHERE Wednesday at 10 on DirecTV Audience Network/Channel 239

REASON TO WATCH Fourth season begins (the show has moved from FX to DirecTV and is only available to its subscribers).

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Long gone from Hewes and Associates, Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) is at another firm and has taken a keen interest in a high-powered private military contractor -- think Blackwater -- that has extensive ties to Afghanistan and is involved in a wrongful-death suit. And how's this for coincidence? An old high school flame, Chris Sanchez (Chris Messina), was a member of an elite ops group for this company, called High Star. Run with serene outward confidence by one Howard T. Erickson (John Goodman), High Star, nonetheless, is under fire in Congress. He needs help and gets it from an operative (played by Dylan Baker). As for Patty (Glenn Close)? Her hands are full, caring for a toddler -- the son of Michael, who is AWOL.

MY SAY The years, the treachery, the toddler (even the new network) have exacted a toll of precisely zero on Patty Hewes. Her eyes remain shards of blue ice, her face as unanimated as a Buddha's. The soul of Patty -- a term used advisedly in her case -- remains the greatest mystery and greatest draw of this fine intellectual thriller. Of course, she and Ellen will be drawn back together (they can't help themselves) and, of course, there will consequences, both good and bad. Tonight's setup promises international terrorists, war profiteers and shadowy fixers. They will be no match for this Batman- Robin team.

BOTTOM LINE While a bit deliberately paced, a good start, with (as always) an excellent guest-star roster.


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